Audrey Landers sings Dallas TNT

Audrey Landers: Everything seemed so familiar that out of the corner of my eye, for a split second I would think it was one of the producers like Leonard Katzman

Audrey Landers joined the ultimatedallas.com team to talk about her return to Dallas on TNT as Afton Cooper – the mother of Pamela Barnes.  Oh, and she even gets to sing again.

 

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Josh: Audrey, thanks for joining us tonight. Are you down in Dallas right now?

Audrey Landers: No, I’ve just gotten back to Florida. I’ve been in the recording studio today. I’m working on my new album that I’m going to be releasing, trying to put together some of the old favorite songs from the early “Dallas” days because those songs have never been recorded and certainly not released anywhere. It’s kind of fun to revisit those early days of “Dallas” and songs that Afton sang.

Josh: And Daniel [Landers] is helping you with that I heard, right?

Audrey: Yes, he is. He’s such an amazing musician aside from being a beautiful singer and a great songwriter. He’s helping to put together the backing tracks for me. It’s really a great collaboration and it’s a way of him being introduced to songs that he’s never heard and certainly a style that he normally wouldn’t be….it’s not his style of music, he’s more into pop/rock and these songs are more country.

Josh: So you’ve been down filming [Dallas]. How many episodes do you know of that Afton is in?

Audrey: This is going to be a really boring interview. I am not at liberty to say much of anything. I’m so sworn to secrecy. I can’t tell you! (Laughs) It was really hard for me to say that I was in Dallas. I had to get permission to say that I was in Dallas. In fact, Linda and I took a photo together and I really wanted to tweet it. I was asked to please hold off. They’re very top secret about this so I’m imagining they’ll want to say what they want to say in their own time but they’ve kind of squelched a lot of things that I’ve wanted to do. I did eventually say that I was in Dallas, so I imagine that people could do the math and figure it out, you know.
(Colin, Josh, Audrey, & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: I’m not allowed to say “Oh I’m going to be on such-and-such an episode on such-and-such a date”. You know?

Josh: Did you get down to Southfork at all? What was it like being back in your element?

Audrey: It was really wonderful, you know. It was so beautiful showing up again. I wasn’t sure what it would be like because there were very few of the same crew members although the ones that had been there in the day all came up and showed me their photo albums of way back in the 80s when we were filming in Dallas. It was really fun to see that and to reconnect with the crew members from then. Of course I met my screen daughter Julie [Pamela Rebecca] for the first time, so that was a lot of fun.

Josh: What was it like working with Julie Gonzalo?

Audrey: It was great. We had a great rapport and we have some very juicy scenes; that I can tell you. Really juicy stuff in this episode—very high drama. She and I had some wonderful scenes together. I actually had the chance to work with just about everybody. I worked with Linda, Patrick, Josh, Jesse, Julie, and I even had some words with Jordana and with Brenda Strong. I jumped right in there 100%.

Josh: Brenda didn’t have her shotgun out, did she?

Audrey: She had no shotgun out in this episode, no, that I can tell you.
(Josh, Colin, Audrey, & Melanie laugh)

Colin: Can you tell what kind of character Afton is today?

Audrey: She is strong and has done very well for herself. She seems to be a very caring individual—which she always was. She seems to be kind of a take-charge person.

 Josh: And she’s going to be the best-looking grandmother out there to those twins.

Audrey: Ooh, I hope so!

Josh: It’s interesting from what we’ve seen so far that there seems to be something developing between John Ross and Rebecca—err, Pamela Rebecca.

Audrey: Yes, she is Pamela, mm-hmm.

Josh: It looks like they’re setting the scene for a triangle maybe there, or a quadrangle with Christopher and Elena too.

Audrey: It’s hard to tell. There’s definitely a lot of chemistry going on. I can tell you I call her Pamela.

Josh: What was it like stepping back into the role?

Audrey: It was definitely a different experience coming back. Afton is now back all grown up and she has this grown up daughter. I think she’s become quite a strong lady over the years so the character development is really cool and I think the fans will be pleased with that. Going back, it was really cool because even Linda and Patrick said “It is so odd having you here because it’s like time stood still.” It’s back to where we were all those years ago. For me, it felt so eerily the same and to the point where—I’m not trying to make something sound ghostly, I’m really not. Everything seemed so familiar that out of the corner of my eye, for a split second I would think it was one of the producers like Leonard Katzman. It was just like a time warp for a split second. It felt like home.

Colin: So talking of Leonard, what was it like working with Cynthia?

Audrey: You know, I did not meet Cynthia. To this day I have never met her.

Josh: She’s like the ghost woman, isn’t she?

Audrey: Yes! To this day, I’ve never met her. I was kind of hoping she’d be in Dallas, but she wasn’t.

Josh: So it was really like going back home again.

Audrey: It was, it really was. I hope I can keep going back. I don’t know what the future holds. I do think honestly and truly that the producers pay an enormous amount of attention to the Twitters and all that stuff that goes on. I think they do respond to that. Honestly, I really do want to thank the fans because I think that part of the push that got them to write me in was all of the great stuff that you guys have done. I really do, so thank you.

Josh: When we last saw Afton back in 1989, if you exclude the movie like Cynthia did, she had that scene where she set it up with her ex-husband to convince Cliff that her daughter wasn’t Cliff’s and they disappeared. Do they give any backstory as to how Cliff got his claws into her?

Audrey: Actually there is a little bit of backstory. Very little, but a backstory as to where Afton has been all these years. It’s not fully developed yet for the audiences by this episode, but it’s there. She has a history, she has a good past, and I think it has probably helped her to become the strong woman that she is in this day and age. I even get to sing a little.

Josh: I was just going to ask that.

Melanie: Yay!

Audrey: (laughs) Not much, but it’s really cool how the writers have woven in a lot of elements from the old Afton into this. They really did a spectacular job of just bringing me back and kind of giving the new audiences a taste of who Afton was and reminding the old audiences as well. They did a great job. I think Afton had a lot of followers because in the early part of her relationship with Cliff, he didn’t treat her well. The fans were always saying, “Come on Afton, don’t let him treat you like this. You can do better than that.”

Melanie: And then you did.

Audrey: Yeah, and so I think that as Afton grew, she was more empowered and she gave women a better example as opposed to just letting someone mistreat her like that and I think the fans really did appreciate that about her.

Melanie: Afton grew a backbone after a while, yeah.

Josh: She did have the famous “loser” quote for Cliff.

Audrey: Oh yeah. Well, whenever I do my live shows, people always ask about the JR and the Cliff thing and why I would go from one to the other (laughs). It’s always part of everybody’s repartee with me on live shows and things like that. It’s fun to be able to play it out on the show now.

Josh: Afton ended up married to Harrison Van Buren. Then divorced.

Audrey: It’s so funny because it was such a long time ago and I had almost forgotten about that marriage. I guess it was Afton trying to forget about it too. Audrey had forgotten about it and then somebody had posted the clip and I went “Ohh! What a cool scene that was!”

Josh: And Linda, Patrick, and Ken….did you have—I’ve heard mixed things about whether or not you have scenes with Ken.

Audrey: I didn’t mention him.

Josh: Ahhh.

(Audrey laughs)

Melanie: It’s a secret, remember? Shhhh!

Josh: Obviously we bring up JR, our dear friend Larry who passed since we last spoke.

Audrey: Yeah.

Josh: What were your memories of working with Larry over the years?

Audrey: I have great memories of working with Larry because he always was JR. He was always bigger than life and I think the hardest part about the whole deal is that he always seemed invincible. Even when we all heard that he was ill, personally I felt “Oh my gosh, he can beat anything.” He and JR’s persona are so intertwined in everybody’s mind and it was just heartbreaking because I truly felt that he would get past it. I guess it’s unrealistic but because his persona is so legendary, it just sort of went with what you would believe would happen, you know? For me it was especially sad and heartbreaking in that sense. But working with Larry was always fun. He was always professional and always on top of the character and the scenes. I mean, he was just great. Our first scene together—I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to you guys about that—have I?

Josh: It was the bed scene, wasn’t it?

Audrey: It was! The first scene ever.

Melanie: Was it when he put ice down your back?

Audrey: Yes!

(Colin, Josh, Audrey, & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: I had never even met the cast. Whatever time of the day it was, a 7:00am shooting. “Hello Audrey, this is Larry Hagman.” “Nice to meet you. Get into bed.” “Okay.” (laughs) In Hollywood or TV bedroom scenes the girls all wear these shoulderless slips so that your shoulders are bare. He crawled into bed with his big old cowboy boots on, gets under the covers and had that ice bucket right next to us.
(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Melanie: Oh no.

Audrey: He was basically saying “Yup, this is how we break the ice here.” It was definitely a quick introduction!

Josh: You weren’t in the memorial episode. We talked to Joan Van Ark about when she was down there doing wardrobe. Do we get to see Afton have any kind of reaction to JR’s death? I know she comes in after he’s died.

Audrey: She doesn’t have a very strong reaction in a negative way. She definitely has fond memories of him which people wouldn’t have expected especially since she wasn’t at the memorial. The writing for Afton is really cryptic, I have to say. Everything that she says has a strange dichotomy to it. She’ll say one thing in the script that seems very positive and then the very next sentence you go “Oh my God, where did THAT come from?” I think that Afton still has a lot of secrets and a mystery about her especially about where she’s been in the past.

Melanie: Actually that’s kind of interesting because I was talking to Colin about that earlier. I felt like I don’t really understand why Cliff and Pamela Rebecca are on this “trip” that they’re on.

Audrey: Right.

Melanie: You know, Afton wasn’t really vengeful in any kind of way and I think what you said is interesting. It’s like, “What do the three of them know that the rest of us don’t….yet?”

Audrey: Yeah, it is very interesting. I think that it’s very ingenious of the writers and the producers, especially in this episode, to pique everybody’s interest to that point.

Melanie: Right, because in the original series, we all kind of left thinking that everything was okay, and then it’s like “What happened in the last 25 years or so to change that?” It’s like a big mystery.

Audrey: And make Rebecca do what she did, and how did she and Cliff get on to this whole new track.

Josh: I’ve heard a couple of places, I think Jesse Metcalfe mentioned it, that we will find out what happened to Pam this season. Maybe that ties into this whole mystery?

Audrey: It could very well. We will find out which is fantastic for the audience too because I know everybody’s tweeting about that.

Josh: We know JR’s death ends up as a murder mystery. We just saw the synopsis today and it says that he’s killed in a random mugging. Obviously, that’s….

Melanie: No, no.

Audrey: That’s crazy. That doesn’t seem like JR….it doesn’t seem fitting for JR so I’m sure there’s more to it than that.

Josh: Afton didn’t have anything to do with his death, did she? (laughs)

Audrey: Not that I know of.

(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: Not that I can tell, anyway.

Josh: Not that you’ll say.

Audrey: Exactly.

Josh: Do you have any idea if Afton gets dragged into this whole feud?

Audrey: I don’t really have a lot of insight into that right now. I don’t.

Melanie: I do have to ask, is there any tension at all after 30 years remaining between Afton and Sue Ellen?

Audrey: Yes.

Melanie: Oooh! Yes!

Audrey: It was really a fun episode, and with so many seeds planted and so many directions that Afton could take and interact with others, it all remains to be seen-what Cynthia and the team are going to do with it.

Josh: Were you left open-ended as a possible future return?

Audrey: Definitely. A lot of doors have been opened. I’m not sure where they’re going to take us to, but this particular episode like I already said is very juicy, really high drama, tension, and very high emotions in this particular episode. I don’t think that the audience will be disappointed at all. There’s just so much going on in this episode.

Josh: What was it like for you working with some of the newer people like Brenda Strong? Actually, you two have something in common. You both shared Cliff at one point because she’s a one night stand of his in the original series.

Audrey: We don’t talk about that!

(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: She’s terrific. Aside from everybody being so friendly and nice, everyone is beautiful to look at. They are all amazing. Those guys are so handsome. Patrick is amazing looking. Linda is just gorgeous. Then you have these two young girls. It’s really just a show full of eye candy. I really think so. Everybody’s just beautiful to look at. Brenda is like seven feet tall. She’s got the most perfect body I’ve ever seen.

Josh: When you first read the script, what did you think?

Audrey: Yes. I think that the scripts are so well written and they are so full of intrigue and there are surprises at every turn. Although the audiences believe that they know the characters, the characters are always surprising. I really think it’s an incredible job that they have done making the whole feel of the show. It’s quite ingenious that they’ve been able to integrate the old and the new and still make the show relevant to today’s audiences. Obviously to be a success, they have to bring in the old and the new and I’m really impressed and pleased with how well that seems to be happening. The scripts are well-written. The characters are so well-developed and they’re fun to play. They’re just so much fun to act.

Josh: The ratings this season haven’t been where people have expected. What can you say to fans that are concerned?

Audrey: Well, I don’t know who’s judging that honestly. I think it’s very hard to satisfy everybody and bringing in new characters and last minute storylines with the passing of Larry….I think it has posed challenges for sure, but I do think that the writers and producers are up for that challenge. They’re so talented and the stories that I’ve been involved with have been very dramatic and in keeping with the old “Dallas” stuff but stepping it up a notch or ten.

Josh: It sounds like you’re definitely more than window dressing like Ray and Lucy were in some of those episodes this past season.

Audrey: Yes! I know it. I’ve had some beautiful scenes and I hope that I continue to have more, but like I said, I really and truly don’t know. I do think it depends a ton on what the fans demand. I really think it makes an impact.

Josh: Pamela needs her mother around.

Audrey: Yes, she does. She really messed up without me.

Josh: Especially with this whole Tommy Sutter thing.

Audrey: Yeah, it gets worse! (laughs)

Josh: Oh.

Colin: Ooh.

Melanie: Ohhh.

(Audrey laughs)

Josh: You mentioned the changing of a storyline with Larry’s passing. Do you know if any of your storylines were changed?

Audrey: I can only guess that it was because I was supposed to be on much earlier in the season. I do believe that there was a huge impact.

Josh: Will fans be pleased with where they find Afton at this point in time?

Audrey: Oh yes, the fans will definitely be pleased as to where she is now and how she’s reacting to all of the stuff that’s going on. As I said, the script at this point has laid the groundwork for a lot of good stuff for my character. Meaty storylines. I just don’t know exactly where they’re going to take it.

Josh: Can you tell us about your [Dallas] CD?

Audrey: There’s going to be “Steal Me Away”. I’m pretty sure I sang “The Town is Talking”. When I used to write those songs, it would be from Afton’s point of view. They were really written in those days about Afton’s love for JR because she really did care for him. They made her out to be so much of a gold digger but I think as a young girl Afton really did have feelings for JR. When I would get the script, I would tailor my songs to the way I believed Afton felt in her heart. “Steal Me Away” was written because she wanted to just go someplace far away with him. It wasn’t anything that could be out in the open.
The other song I mentioned called “The Town is Talking” was also about how everybody was talking about this affair and I don’t care what they think. There was a third one called “Don’t Say You Love Me” that I wrote where she was basically saying she’s in love with a married man so she doesn’t ever want to hear the words that he loves her because it would only break her heart.
I think that the songs gave the side of Afton that the fans didn’t really see, but was underlying in my interpretation of Afton’s character as a young girl. As an actor, every actor has to rationalize their actions. For me, my rationale was that I really cared for him and that’s why he could talk me into doing crazy things. Of course that translated into Afton’s relationship with Cliff—when she fell in love with him and really devoted herself to him. I’ll have a couple of those songs and then I’m going to put some other songs on that I sang later on in the series that were more “produced” songs. I think I sang “It Takes Two to Fly”. I’ll have that on the album and probably some that are more adult contemporary productions as opposed to country sounds from the “Dallas” days. I even tried to incorporate the sound with the Fender Rhoades piano that I sang with on “Dallas”. Daniel’s really good at this stuff; he actually created the tracks with me.

Josh: I heard the song that they were playing at the end of the radio show Saturday night. What was that called again?

Audrey: “One Last Lie”.

Josh: Yes, yes. Very good! He sounds a lot older than you would think. He has a very mature voice.

Audrey: He does, and he writes very mature songs. He’s in college and as soon as he’s done with a class, he goes into this practice room and writes new material. This child is like a writing machine. Every day he’s got some new amazing song that he’s started or completed so he’ll call me and say “Where are you? Can you listen for a second?” He’ll play me something and I’ll listen to it and as a mother I’ll listen to this angst, this agony in the lyrics and I’m going “Oh my God, my poor child, what is he going through?”

(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: As an artist, I go “This is amazing stuff!” I have a little bit of a conflict there in saying “Okay Daniel, whatever’s upsetting you is really inspirational, so I’m sorry, but…”
Josh: Keep doing it!

(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: Obviously, many songs are based on relationships so as a mother my heart breaks when I hear these lyrics. He’s also said “Will you stop with ‘Steal Me Away’? Don’t you think people are getting sick of it?”

(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: I said “How could they get sick of it? They can’t hear it anywhere!” He said “Well, they keep tweeting about it!” I guess they want to hear it then.

Josh: Just to get off of Dallas for a moment, you were recently in Miami working on another project?

Audrey: Yes, and I actually have a couple more that are in the works. I don’t know how soon you are going to put this out, but I might have some more news to tell you about another project–not to take away from “Dallas” in this interview. I think that everything that you do helps feed the “Dallas” promotion because the more people you reach, especially since I have fans from before, they’ll start tuning into “Dallas” too, so it’s all good.

Josh: What can you say about the movie you were working on in Miami?

Audrey: It was a TV-movie pilot for a series. I play a really cool character. It’s a broad comedy. I play kind of a sugar mama.

(Colin, Josh, Audrey, & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: She’s been divorced a few times and did okay in each divorce. In this final one, she decided she’s going to marry a cute young guy that adores her. That’s pretty much the character.

Melanie: Go Audrey! Yes!

Audrey: Yeah!

(Colin, Josh, Audrey & Melanie laugh)

Audrey: It was a lot of fun, zany, and silly. We shot a lot on the water; there was a beach house, and a real Florida feel to it.

Josh: As long as they know that you’re Afton first.

Audrey: Oh, of course. You never know where these things go but it definitely was a lot of fun.
Links:
www.audreylanders.com
www.daniellandersofficial.com
www.facebook.com/audreylandersofficial
www.facebook.com/daniellandersmusic
Twitter: @audreylanders, @daniel_landers

Interviewed by Josh Eilberg, Colin Hunter, & Melanie Joy

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